Ultrathin teardown! Asus ultrabook vs MacBook Air

By Loyd Case, PC World |  Consumerization of IT, Asus, laptops

Cooling: Both computers use very shallow fans offset to one side, with heat pipes transferring the heat. Asus has heat dissipaters on both the CPU and the I/O controller hub chip, while Apple uses one on only the CPU.

Hard drive: Both machines use MSATA solid-state drives. These look a little like memory modules, but the connector is on the short edge. The Asus uses an ADATA drive that has a thermal shield on one side, while Apple keeps all the flash memory chips bare. In both systems, the memory is soldered to the reverse side of the circuit board.

Battery: The batteries were strikingly similar, too. Both were 50-watt-hour sheet batteries composed of multiple cell sandwiches. The Asus battery actually had masking tape strips reinforcing the connection from the battery to the system, though this may have just been a leftover from the build process.

There are only so many ways you can build laptops this thin

We found many similarities in the internal designs of the Zenbook and the Air. Even the solid-state drives in the two machines are aligned in similar directions. You might think that Apple would be concerned about the similarities, given its predilection for protecting intellectual property. Nonetheless, when it comes to hardware design, the laws of physics trump everything. Whether we're talking about PCs or Macs, the layout and design of printed circuit boards tends to follow a specific set of rules in order to minimize trace length to ensure accurate timings. Most boards are laid out using automated tools, rather than drawn by hand. So maybe it's no surprise that the main board designs look so similar to nonengineers.

The most important and visible differences for users emerge via the design and usability of physical user interface elements--the design of the keyboard, pointing devices, and LCD panel. Perhaps even more important is the design of the user environment offered by a computer's operating system--and, in this regard, the user environments of the Zenbook and the Air are very, very different.

As different as Macs and PCs.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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